What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. It is the lens that focuses images on the retina at the back of the eye. These images are sent chemically to the brain via the optic nerve. In an instant they are interpreted by the brain as the images that we see. Once the lens is clouded, the images that we see are blurry, much like looking through frosted glass.
Usually cataracts are a sign of normal aging. People develop them at different rates and with different levels of severity. But, the bottom line is that the lens is essential for proper vision.
How do you know if you have a cataract? Cataracts develop independently in each eye. Just because you have one in one eye doesn’t dictate when the other eye may develop one. Here are some symptoms:
* Blurred vision
* Halos seen around lights
* Sensitivity to light
* Problems with night vision
* Double vision in one eye
To you, in the mirror you may notice a cloudy white spot forming in the eye. Cataracts can form from the center out, on the sides of the lens or posterior to it. At the outset, a cataract may not compromise your vision. An ophthalmologist can do an exam and gauge the progression of your cataract.
In the early days of a cataract, the treatment options revolve around lifestyle changes. First, if you smoke, stop as soon as you can. Smoking can increase the incidence of vision problems and it affects blood vessels.
Evaluate your diet. Antioxidants can slow down the signs of aging, including cataracts. Increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich foods will not only keep you healthy in other respects but can keep your eyes healthy well into your golden years.
Visit the doctor regularly. Diabetes and high blood pressure can bring on diabetic retinopathy if uncontrolled. An eye doctor can also advise ways to battle early cataracts such as wearing sunglasses, using reading glasses and not driving at night.
On the other hand, some cataracts mature to the point when there needs to be other options for treatment. The last option people may take advantage of is cataract surgery. Here, the clouded lens is removed through a process called phacoemulsion and replaced with an artificial lens.
Cataract surgery has advanced far in the last twenty or thirty years and is considered safer. Even so, a doctor will discuss the benefits and risks with you.